SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Local officials are taking action to lower the risk of traffic incidents with the rate of deadly crashes increasing since 2020.
The Healey Administration announced new funding for road safety projects, distributing $5.4 million to cities and towns. Springfield has already installed a shining example of the sort of equipment this grant money will be used for.
These beacons are already working to slow cars down at mid-block pedestrian crossings around the city, and that’s just the beginning. The City of Springfield is taking practical action to reduce the rate of crashes in town, particularly high-risk collisions between cars and pedestrians or cyclists.
“Giving everybody the room, giving everybody notice at the intersection, giving everybody time to cross the intersection. That’s what we are doing right now,” said Chris Cignoli, Director at Springfield DPW.
From 2017 to 2021, Massachusetts has averaged 70 pedestrian deaths per year with 76 in the most recent year of data. A majority of those happen between October and March and nearly half in the evening hours.
Springfield’s large population and regional significance set the city up to be the epicenter of those tragic statistics for the region. There have been 22 pedestrian deaths from 2017 to 2021, but trending down over the last two years with just three in 2022, and three so far this year.
Early, city-funded infrastructure work and public education are credited for the progress. “Lane narrowing, raised crosswalks, beacons things like that. When you see those speed limit flashers as well, those are gathering data.”
That data shows early signs of success. Cignoli told 22News that cars are approaching improved crossings slower and people are crossing more safely. It also serves Springfield’s plans for the future submitted to the federal government as part of a grand safety plan for a new direct-to-municipality complete streets grant program.
“The grant Springfield received totals $15 million from the federal department of transportation. Springfield was awarded an all-implementation grant which is given to municipalities with a well-established strategy and practical plan to improve vehicle, pedestrian, and cyclist safety.”
“It’s 15 intersections and 10 corridors. The idea for the corridors is to slow cars down naturally through what you are doing. Whether you are talking about bump outs, better crosswalks, better-lit crosswalks, better striping more, time at an intersection, and upgrading traffic signals for more visibility.”
Cignoli hopes construction can begin this winter and all 25 projects will be done by the end of 2025 and even then the city isn’t done, “I’m going to move much faster if I can because once we are done I’m going to submit another application.”
The grant announced yesterday comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Municipal Road Safety Program, distributed to local police departments for traffic safety projects, like speed-monitoring displays, and public awareness campaigns.
22News continues examining deadly roads in western Massachusetts and will take a look at a continued trend of reckless driving which spiked during the pandemic and persisted in the years since.